In 2010 the EU launched an integrated surveillance mechanism on economic policy co-ordination between the Member States. The mechanism streamlines the reporting and monitoring cycles concerned with the national stability and convergence programmes (SCPs) on the one hand and the national structural policy reforms on the other. The latter structural or ‘thematic’ reforms are connected with the overall umbrella strategy that the EU has adopted for the ten years period 2010-2020: the Europe 2020 strategy.
The Europe 2020 strategy, which was initiated on 3 March 2010, aims at creating a smart, sustainable and inclusive economy and defines 5 measurable ‘headline’ targets for the whole EU to be achieved by the year 2020:
Employment rate at 75%
Reduction of poverty by 20 million people
School drop-out rates below 10%
Annual investment in research and development of minimum 3% of the GDP and
The ‘green 20%-20%-20%’ target rates.
Member States are expected to ‘translate’ these EU headline targets into national targets and report annually to the European Commission on the progress achieved and on the challenges encountered.
The annual reporting and monitoring cycle evolves in two semesters and is following a strict time line. The European Semester concerns the first part of the year and is launched in November with the publication of the Annual Growth Survey (AGS), setting out the broader EU economic and social objectives for the year to come. Member States are to take these priorities into account when designing their annual National Reform Programmes (NRPs) and their Stability (Eurozone countries) and Convergence (non-Eurozone countries) Programmes, which they submit in April to the European Commission. After assessment of the NRPs and SCPs, the European Commission issues for each Member State some concrete Country Specific Recommendations (CSR) addressing some priority challenges Member States are requested to tackle in the immediate future. In the second part of the year, Member States have to implement the CSRs in preparing their annual budgets (the national semesters).
Social Services Europe supports the understanding of its members about the European Semester mechanism and encourages their participation to the national consultations in order to enhance their voice in the National Reform Programmes. Stakeholder engagement in the European Semester must extend beyond social partners and include the providers of social and health care services as well as the wider civil society community. Social Services Europe believes that investing in people brings both social and economic returns.Social and health care services enable people to live with dignity and care but also support people to engage in economic activities that contribute to growth. Social Services Europe calls for major investment in social policies, including social services, to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in Europe.